- The Washington Times - Wednesday, June 11, 2008

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

In reply to the Friday/Saturday Op-Ed column “Declare independence” by Rep. Mike Rogers, Michigan Republican, and the Saturday letter by William H. Meadows, “No gain from Arctic drilling,” I want to make my basic agreement with them very clear.

We should strive toward more development and use of renewable sources of energy. Regrettably, when the first major energy crisis hit the United States in 1973-74, we missed our chance to do that.

Whether this failure to act was willful or simply neglectful is not easy to assess, but my memory of those days suggests a possible element of deliberateness.

In early January 1974, after the fuel shortages of that time really began to be felt, President Nixon spoke to the nation about a Project Independence 1980, by which time America was to have weaned itself from unreliable foreign sources of oil and gas and developed alternatives to petroleum.

Nobody seriously thought such independence would be achieved by 1980, but many took Mr. Nixon’s meaning as beginning a Manhattan Project-like effort in that direction.

Just after Mr. Nixon’s speech, I recall hearing news reports that if America really did embark on this kind of Manhattan Project, oil-exporting nations would consider such a move “a most unfriendly act.”

No further mention was made about Project Independence 1980. Presumably, the petroleum exporters had a means of reprisal at their command should Project Independence have been implemented, but if so, the nature of such possible reprisal has not been made public to date.

The closest thing I heard thereafter was President Ford speaking about a Project Interdependence at the World Energy Conference in Detroit in September 1974.

I knew by then that any serious effort toward developing energy-source diversification was essentially terminated. I was not alone in my fear that this dropping of the ball would come to haunt us one day, as indeed it has, once in 1979 and again from 2006 to the present, with no real relief in sight.

History might not always repeat itself exactly, but it can paraphrase itself. Mr. Rogers’ bill to establish July 4, 2015, as America’s Energy Independence Day under his American Energy Independence Act certainly is well-intended and commendable.

However, I am not sanguine about its prospects for helping extricate America from its energy crunch.

First of all, the contents of his bill should have been put into effect 34 years ago. Second, who is to say that today’s oil exporters do not have a means of reprisal in case America starts a belated crash program in developing alternatives?

Finally, proven technology for harnessing renewable energy sources to run an industrial-scale economy does not exist, and prospects for such technology remain “blue-sky.” So, barring some sudden miraculous technical breakthrough soon, I must remain pessimistic for the long term.

JULIAN JOSEPHSON

Bethesda

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